Sharing the Blank: The Birth of a Campaign

By Michelle Gunn in Creative on November 11th, 2011

There has been some great excitement and buzz around the halls of BKV as we recently kicked off Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s “Share the Hope” campaign. If you’ve seen the video, you know there was honesty and passion involved with creating what we are sharing with you. Join Todd Bemis and Michelle Gunn as they pause to reflect on what the “Share the Hope” journey has meant to them.   

The launch is now official...

Spots are trafficked and airing. Press releases are … well, released. The YouTube counter is ticking in fits and starts, ever upward.

Rarely do we pause in the middle of a project to reflect on how we got here, and what that journey means to us. Then again, the “Share the Hope” Campaign for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is no ordinary project. All of us on the team agree: The Share campaign is no longer just work. It’s personal now. That’s why we thought we’d lift the curtain a little, and divulge how the concept and aesthetics came about.


When Children’s asked us to come up with an idea for their year-end campaign, we were elated to learn this could be a completely new concept, an approach that didn’t need to tie into any existing execution. The shackles were off! The sky was the limit! And the page was … um, blank.

At least, it was for a little while. We (Michelle Gunn and Todd Bemis) did the usual hour’s worth of folding paper airplanes and throwing pencil darts into the ceiling tiles before we had our Burning Bush Moment. “Okay, what about a video that shows the actual patients?” I asked. “Everybody loves kids, right? And dogs. Let’s see if we can get a dog in there too.”


Babies and puppies make for good TV spots. But Children’s is not Charmin. We understood that our idea had to communicate more than just rainbows-and-kittens feel-good sentimentality. It needed to convey the reality of children in the hospital. (It was a reality I knew all too well from my own experience: My daughter was born very premature, and was stuck in the hospital for 70 days before she could come home. The reality is a rollercoaster. –TB) So it was crucial that this campaign share the downs as well as the ups: the worry and the confusion. And, yes, the hope that everything will end up okay.

“Emotional tapestry,” I scribbled. We envisioned a simple montage of vignettes that featured patients, their families and CHOA staff. We could even throw in some music to draw in the viewer and engage that emotional complexity. But pictures and songs do not a tapestry make. What’s the message, the thread that weaves these images together?

“Well,” said Bemis, “If we want the audience to share in all those various feelings and experiences, why not just ask them? Ask them to share the blank.”

The staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite granted us a behind-the-scenes tour for location scouting. We wandered through the Neonatal ICU, Pediatric ICU, Technology-Dependent ICU, Comprehensive Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, and AFLAC Cancer Center, as well as countless libraries and gardens and play areas. The space is open and almost aggressively un-institutional. It was obviously designed with children in mind; bright, bold colors, patients’ artwork, and large shapes abound. From these elements, the kernel of our design aesthetic took form. On the web site, we use rich colors in bright blocks that mimic the palette at Scottish Rite. A childlike handwritten font plays hero in our request to “Share the hope… the struggle … the friendship.” And overall, the page is just plain simple. Just the way a kid would want it.

Next, we tried to concoct a shot list, a menu of the kinds of pieces we wanted to sew together in this tapestry. We did our homework, of course. We pored over the CHOA brand standards in an effort to illustrate Children’s mission accurately. We scribbled down hundreds of “Share words” to try and fill in that blank. And we figured that if we were just buttoned-up enough, we’d be able to write ourselves a tidy wish list of the different scenarios we wanted. And then we’d, you know, find them.

We were very naive.

There was no way to script this video piece. It would have to write itself. And that is precisely what it did.

The video was shot in one day, with one camera, at one hospital. Nothing was staged or directed. And, rather than finding shots to match the various “Share words” we had planned, it happened exactly the other way around. Every time the camera turned on, it found its own little bit of magic. Candid. Organic. Serendipitous.

We saw a cancer patient playing an imaginary video game in his sleep. We saw a burn survivor anxiously biting her lip while she waited to be fitted with her first prosthetic. We saw an achingly beautiful tableau in a mother’s quiet embrace of her sick baby. Watching these images unfold on the video monitor, we would stare with ill-concealed tears and whisper to one another, “Share the dream.” Or, “Share the struggle.” Or “Share the love.”

All the words that fill in the blank space, all the emotion and experience came from being around those kids and witnessing, firsthand, their strength and humor and resilience and beauty.

It was the children who made the video. We were just lucky enough to share in it.

To learn more about how you can "Share the Hope" please visit


BKV would also like to extend special thanks to those who helped make this project possible. To cinematographer Bill VanDerKloot of Magick Lantern for rendering those moments with such beauty and sensitivity. To video editor and compositor James Powell of Magick Lantern for giving those moments a structure, a story and a heartbeat. To voiceover artist Kitty Snyder, who (literally) gave the campaign a voice – and a beautiful one at that. To composer Michael Becker for his talent and generosity. To Mary Overend of the Foundation at Children’s, for working with parents and staff to ensure that these children crossed paths with our camera.

Finally, we’d also like to share our admiration and appreciation for Melanie Cole and Dawn Piscitelli of the Foundation at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Without their round-the-clock support, and their commitment to sharing their vision of Children’s with integrity, authenticity and passion, this campaign could not have become such a story of hope.